SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) is the concept that teaching and learning needs to be treated similarly to other forms of scholarship, wherein instructors are engaged in evolving theory and practices that involve student learning. What differentiates SoTL from other ways of engaging with student learning is the ability for an application leading to a more intensive interdisciplinary understanding of student learning, allowing instructors to effectively maintain scholarly methods of teaching. When first approaching SoTL, it can be helpful to consider five primary principles (Felton 2013):
- "Inquiry Focused on Student Learning": This principle is focused on the concept of curating a question with the core concern being student learning. Questions are able to explore different aspects of teaching and learning as well as being rooted in a multiplicity of disciplines, but it is crucial that SoTL questions are rooted in a better understanding of student learning.
- "Grounded in Context": Teaching and learning vary depending on its context. Institutional, cultural, and disciplinary differences can all determine teaching and learning styles. For SoTL, it's helpful to consider these contexts when conducting research to create a project that will be the most beneficial for future instructors faced with similar contextual challenges.
- "Methodologically Sound": As with all scholarship, it's essential to make sure that SoTL research is methodologically sound. Though the methods will differ based on the research conducted for each project, it's necessary for SoTL research to apply research tools to explore the initial inquiry better.
- "Conducted in Partnership with Students": All methodology needs to be ethical and responsible, including when research is conducted in partnership with students. If the ethical requirements are met, collaborating with students is an excellent way to encourage co-inquiry amongst both the researcher and student to provide a more engaged and thorough result.
- "Appropriately Public": While being appropriately public does involve addressing community and contextual inquiries, in SoTL research, it is also essential to keep the public nature of scholarship in mind in regards to the constant evolution of SoTL work. Allowing public accessibility opens up the opportunity for future researchers to build off previous SoTL projects to inform conclusions of new inquiries.
These principles can behave as helpful guidelines for anyone considering contributing to SoTL. Additionally, they can help curate an environment conducive to an evolving understanding of teaching and learning in higher education.
For a more in-depth look at SoTL, consider Elon University's video on the key characteristics of SoTL.